A fraction of primary schools in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir reopened on Monday but only a few students turned up, NDTV reported. Many schools closed their gates after opening in the morning, according to the report. “Some staff and teachers came, but students never did,” an employee of a well-known school in the heart of Srinagar told the news channel.
The schools reopened amid apprehension and worry as restrictions continued to remain in place in many areas of the state. According to PTI, the Police Public School at Bemina and a few Kendriya Vidyalayas only had a handful of students attend on Monday. All the private schools reportedly remained closed.
The reopening of schools came a day after authorities in the state reimposed restrictions on movement in parts of Srinagar following violent protests between security forces and residents. At least 17 people were taken to hospitals with pellet-gun injuries, reports said.
Meanwhile, most educational institutions in five border districts of Jammu that reopened on Monday witnessed “full attendance”, said officials. The five districts where educational institutes reopened after a fortnight are Rajouri, Poonch, Ramban, Doda and parts of Kishtwar.
In Poonch district, officials said all educational institutions, barring higher secondary schools and colleges, have reopened. The higher secondary schools and colleges are likely to reopen on Tuesday.
Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner Angrez Singh Rana said many private schools reopened in the district on their own on Monday. “We are officially resuming classwork in all government-run educational institutions from Tuesday,” he told PTI.
All communication lines were snapped in Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, the day the central government revoked the state’s special status and split it into two Union territories. These territories will come into effect on October 31. While restrictions were lifted in Jammu earlier this week, Kashmir Valley has been under an unprecedented security and information clampdown. The state administration had said last week that restrictions in the Valley would be eased in the coming days “in an orderly way”.
“We hope to restore full functionality to government offices and as the days progress we will move forward for the other areas such as developmental works,” Principal Secretary (Planning) Rohit Kansal said on Sunday. “You have to give us an opportunity to start the schools. We promise we will do step by step and slowly but surely.”
Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam had said on Friday that schools would be reopened soon as the government did not want children’s studies to suffer. “Monday is going to be a big test,” a police officer had told Hindustan Times. “So far, everything has been under control and no big incident happened. As the restrictions has been eased in large parts of the Valley, so we are hoping the situation will remain peaceful.” Officials said middle and higher secondary schools will be reopened soon if there are no problems in the first phase.
Parents in the Valley, however, were wary. “Though restrictions have been removed from our area but still situation is not so peaceful,” said Ishfaq Ahmad from Srinagar. “The shops and business establishment are still closed. The business nerve centre Lal Chowk is still blocked with barbed wire and in these circumstances how can I send my children to school?” He wondered if school buses will even be around to pick his child on Monday, and said he would rather wait a few days.
“The interior roads are blocked by protesters and the main road is hemmed in by spools of concertina wires every 100 metres,” another parent, SM Qadri from Srinagar, told The Hindu. “Would a father like his ward to face harassment at every crossroad of the street? Can she take this intimidation given her age? I have decided against taking any risk to send my daughter immediately.” He added that there was no communication from schools about reopening.
School teachers also appeared to be confused, according to the newspaper. “No buses ply anywhere in Srinagar,” said an unidentified government schoolteacher. “Crowds stop vehicles in many areas of Srinagar. Who will guarantee security to teachers?”
Four thousand people detained: Report
Meanwhile, a magistrate told AFP that at least 4,000 people were arrested and detained under the Public Safety Act in the past two weeks. “Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said. He added that he had used a satellite phone to collate the figures.
Several political leaders – including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone, Jammu Kashmir Peoples Movement leader Shah Faesal, and state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir – are under detention. The administration had said on Friday that preventive detentions were being continuously reviewed, and “appropriate decisions will be made based on law and order assessments”.
The state government has so far not given any official statement on the number of detentions. According to The Indian Express, some of the other top politicians who have been detained are Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattu, former state Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, former minister and Mehbooba Mufti’s close aide Naeem Akhtar, and former ministers and National Conference leaders Ali Mohammad Sagar and Abdul Rahim Rather.
Asked about the future of these politicians, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh told The Indian Express: “Actually I do not see any future for them. They are also realising that their political innings has come to an end. It is only some section of the media that wants to see some future, so that the story can carry on. The story has ended.”